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July 28, 1998


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Centre may propose reasonable solution to Cauvery crisis

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

The Centre is likely to propose a tripartite monitoring mechanism for implementing the Cauvery Waters Tribunal's interim award.

The proposal, likely to be made at the chief secretary-level talks at Delhi on Wednesday, seeks to address itself to the concerns of Karnataka while acknowledging the 'rightful claims' of Tamil Nadu under the law.

''There are no two courses available to the Centre once the Supreme Court puts its foot down on the implementation of the interim award,'' says an informed source. ''The award has been made as per the law of the land, and the Centre's agreed duty is only to formulate a mechanism for monitoring the implementation, and notifying it in the central gazette.'' Maybe, he adds, Kerala and Pondicherry too will be in the monitoring team apart from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

In this context, the source refers to the stand taken by the Karnataka government. That state's officials also appreciate the legal position, that the interim award has to be implemented. And they only want the appointment of a statutory committee for implementation deferred until the tribunal's final award is known, says the source, referring to Karnataka Law Minister M C Nanaiah's statement in this regard.

The source appreciates the Karnataka stand that an experts committee from outside the four riparian states be formed as an interim measure for implementation. ''Maybe, outside experts can be co-opted as members, or the Centre could bring them in as its nominees,'' the source says adding, ''It will make things easier if the respective governments talk to the monitoring committee, if not at the monitoring committee."

As he points out, both the Cauvery Waters Tribunal and also the subsequent experts committee appointed by the Centre in the wake of a fast undertaken by then Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha in 1993 were similar exercises. "They have not helped matters,'' the source adds and refers to the Jyoti Basu-led CMs panel that went into the Alamatti row between Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and failed.

The Centre is obviously keen on solving the problem before the August 12 hearing of the Cauvery case in the Supreme Court, says the source. ''That may be why it wants to keep political compulsions and emotions away from the talks, and has confined Wednesday's meeting to bureaucrats. The political masters in the four states would be brought in, when a solution presents itself.''

Should the Centre fail in its attempts, it would report its efforts to the court. It will then be for the judiciary to tell the Centre, what to do next. ''It will then be for the Supreme Court to decide whether to seek the opinion of the four states, particularly Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, to present their views on the draft scheme proposed by the Centre, or pass its orders, based on the submissions made by the Centre.''

The former course, claims the source, ''may put the court in the role of an arbitrator above the Centre, which is not envisioned by the law in this case. The Centre is expected under the Inter-State River Waters Dispute Act to notify the interim award of any tribunal, and the court has already held that 'award' includes 'interim award', as well. The question is only about the 'monitoring mechanism', or the 'implementation authority.''

Says the source in this context: ''Like the Centre, the court too may have to take into account the practicality of implementation. If it entertains submissions by the four states afresh on any central scheme for implementation, then it would delay the case. But if it passes an order, it has to be made workable with the least of problems.''

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